Riley Smith – Real Estate Blogging Success Profiled
The following is the 2nd in a series of brief interviews with a handful of Tomato clients
that have volunteered to chat about their real estate blogging success.
Riley Smith of Miami, Fl.
Tomato: Riley, how long has blogging been a part of your real estate marketing strategy?
RS: We started blogging in May of 2008. This was after you had come in to our Miami office to talk about this whole new marketing strategy called blogging back in August of 2007.
Tomato: How long did it take you start to seeing results from your blogging? I mean, real business inquires?
RS: Coconut Grove is a small community and it turns out that there wasn’t a lot of competition in the search engines at the time so we started seeing great results rather quickly. From there, the leads started coming in, so I would say in just a few months the blogging started to pay off.
Tomato: What sort of success did you see in the Search Engines?
RS: Well, everyone wants to be found for your area (like Coconut Grove) coupled with words like Realtor or Real Estate or Agent. We dominate for those. We usually appear as #1, 2 or 3 for any terms like that. And it has been like that for some time now.
But to tell you the truth what brings us the most business is the fact that we come up in the top spot for so many long-tail search results. It’s just like you said in that first seminar you put on for our office. The long-tail terms are the ones that bring in the high quality inquiries, and we make our living off that long-tail. Terms like ‘gated communities’, ‘townhouses’ or ‘on the water’ coupled with Coconut Grove are great examples… but there are more than I can possibly mention.
Tomato: How often are you blogging?
RS: We are almost every day; five days a week.
Tomato: What are you most commonly blogging about?
RS: We portray ourselves as sort of the giver of information that people can’t readily find – I guess that’s the whole idea of blogging. To that effect we really get into the numbers, much more than most people. We found that that’s really what people want. Closed price per sq ft data, comparisons of living in this area vs that area – just numbers and charts and graphs that make sense of it all – I’m a numbers guy, and I want to attract people that like the numbers as well.
And, to tell you the truth that can be a bit challenging at times, focusing on numbers, because these people we attract really know their numbers too, so this has forced me to be a much better agent for them. The blog has made me a 10-times better Realtor – my clients that are reading the blog at times know the content/numbers better than I have so I need to really be sharp and know my stuff if I am going to publish it.
Because we put it all out there I think that like with anything – if you are the one talking about it, people see if coming from you, they see you as the perceived expert.
Tomato: Do you blog about listings?
RS: Absolutely! Our clients expect that we blog their property. One of the things that I sell when I go on a listing appointment is that we will be blogging about their listing. And that it will help get it sold.
You are crazy not to blog other people’s listings. We do it all the time. I’ve sold a 3 million dollar house doing this. It’s amazing. And with our power in Google, we come up for everything about that listing, including the listing agent themselves – especially if they have a poor Internet presence. It’s an unintended yet beneficial consequence of blogging listings.
In fact – a lot of the brokers in town will call me and ask if I am going to blog their listings. They want it. It’s crazy how this has all worked out.
Also, lots of times we are blogging listings before they hit the MLS so we get a jump on being spidered for the address and property info.
Tomato: Do you track how much business you get from your blog?
RS: Since we started blogging we have grown our business 50% every year.
Last year we did $30 million in sales with $20 million coming directly from the blog. This year so far (up to May) we have closed 20 and 12 are from the blog with 9 million in sales. We have another 10 million pending, most of those from the blog. I am glad I wasn’t sleeping that day you showed up at our office to talk about blogging.
When it comes to real estate there are 2 categories of people: those that know you and those that don’t. Blogging brings you to those people that don’t know you. We have a unique model here. A lot of people have built their real estate business on their social prowess; trying to be seen everywhere, every club, church, local event, they know everybody in town…
That’s not the model that we ever wanted. We always wanted the model to be “Hire us because we are the best in a very focused area.” For us blogging has been a great vehicle for getting that message out to the people. And it keeps me at home with my family more.
Tomato: So what’s the biggest challenge you have when it comes to blogging?
RS: Keeping it fresh.
We have written over 1000 blog articles so I’m not surprised that’s our challenge.
The other challenge is keeping our personality in the posts. It’s funny that most of the clients we work with have followed the blog for a year or more and they really feel that they know us. They have already made and secured their decision to work with us. We need to keep that in mind – that it is them getting to know us through our articles and keeping our personality is as important as hitting publish.
Tomato: Any particularly interesting stories of success you’d like to share?
RS: Well that $3 million home is a great one.
We were on tour checking out this home by an amazing architect and I was just blown away so I asked them if I could blog about it. They agreed. So I posted about it on my site and left for a ski vacation the next day. I’m on a chairlift in Vail and my phone rings. It’s a woman from Canada saying that she is on my blog for the very first time and that she absolutely loves the house I had just blogged about. She had to have it. She flew in to see it with me that next week, and bought it the next day. Just like that, my blog sold a 3 million dollar home.
She had found me doing Google searches for vacation properties in south Florida. Being a blogger herself, she was excited about my blogging and she read a bunch of our stuff, gaining confidence in our experience and knowledge.
Now, she has just referred us a to somebody where we closed a $1.7 million home – so that article alone has netted us nearly 5 million in sales. You just never know, and that is beauty of blogging. We wake up every morning checking our emails for new leads from the site. We average 5-6 leads a week to the site. And they are good leads; our blog leads are always solid and worth pursuing.
Tomato: What words of wisdom do you have for new bloggers?
RS: I tell people that blogging is like having a baby. At the beginning you have a lot of pain, frustration and a lot of work. But as the they grow up the rewards continue to get bigger and bigger. And, once they mature they are able to take care of you.
And that’s how I see blogging. The first year is tough. You are writing and posting and then googling yourself and you are on page 60, but you keep plugging along and you see the improvement and then the leads start to come in and next thing you know it is completely taking care of you.
Tomato: Anything else that you would like to add for our readers?
RS: I am the success story about blogging that you would have never imagined. I am totally dyslexic, I can’t spell, I can’t type… I thought that the idea of blogging was absurd the day you came to our office to speak. But Beth Butler was on me, on me, on me until I finally gave in and started with you.
Blogging has been a tool that enables me to do what I do best: it puts me in front of the people. This business is about finding your next client, and blogging is my vehicle to do just that. Some knock on doors, some make phone calls, for us it’s blogging, and it works, that’s for sure.
The best best benefit of the blog is that it has focused us. When we started calling ourselves the experts of Coconut Grove, everybody stated demanding that of me. It forced me to become very, very knowledgeable on my market so that none of my readers would have an upper hand on me. That confidence that I gave them, that level of information, that has really helped out my career.
Riley Smith is an incredibly professional Realtor servicing the greater Coconut Grove, Miami area.
He can be found at his blogsite TheRealEstateCoconut.com.